California Educator

August/September 2023

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The essential elements that make a San Diego community school thrive by Katharine Fong The Right Stuff E A C H C O M M U N I T Y S C H O O L is different — they have to be. The community school model draws on the unique strengths of a neighborhood to address its students' unique needs. This is particularly clear at bustling Hoover High School in San Diego, one of five designated community schools in the San Diego Unified School District last year (another 10 have been designated to begin their trans- formation this year, 2023-24). Hoover, with 2,136 students, is situated in the most ethnically diverse neighborhood of the county, City Heights. Many students and fami- lies are newcomers to the United States; 100% are eligible for free and reduced-cost lunch. "We have over 40 languages represented among our families," says Candace Gyure, the school nurse. The demographic breakdown, according to Hoover 's website, is 75% Latino/ Hispanic, 12% Asian, 9% African American, 1% White, 22.3% English Learners and 7.5% Homeless Youth. "Hoover High serves one of the highest need communities in San Diego," says Kyle Weinberg, president of the San Diego Education Association (SDEA), which with CTA has long advocated for community schools. "Com- munity schools are a great way to identify the unique needs of a community like City Heights, and also to transform how we do education within the classroom, have more culturally sus- taining curriculum — more community-based curriculum, real-world projects, collaboration with community organizations on the issues that are facing our communities." Like many schools, Hoover offered vari- ous services — including a wellness center, mental health center, etc., before officially becoming a community school. But the community school structure brought shared decision-making among students, families, educators, district and community as well as a data-oriented approach to assess needs and assets. This has resulted in Educator Tina Luu, center, teaches nutrition and culinary arts with fresh produce from Hoover High School's food market. C O M M U N I T Y S C H O O L S 32 Kyle Weinberg Social Justice

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